Avoid age bias when discussing retirement.

As employee quit rates hit an all-time high, you're likely hearing more older workers discussing their exit strategy. But HR professionals and managers walk a legal tightrope when talking retirement plans with aging workers.

If it appears you're pushing the employee out the door based on her age--or if you terminate her soon after discussing retirement--you could quickly trigger an age-discrimination lawsuit.

The best approach: Don't assume employees want to retire; wait for them to bring up the subject. Then, document the conversation so there's no mistaking who raised the topic. Timing is everything. A jury will certainly pay close attention when an adverse action (firing, demotion, etc.) occurs close in time to an employee's retirement discussion.

Recent case: In her 15 years at a manufacturing company, Johnnie was disciplined many times for disrespectful behavior. When HR met with Johnnie to discuss her continuing poor behavior, she mentioned that she planned to retire in five months.

The HR director held off on firing Johnnie and instead issued her a final warning. His notes reflect that she brought up retirement and he decided to delay making a discharge decision. But when...

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